Rolling, double time: Despite snags, transit authority begins 30-minute schedule with optimism

by Jordan Green

At six a.m. on Jan. 2 Kenneth Crawford, a slight young man of 21 years who attends GTCC and works at the Greensboro Children’s Museum, returned from the service window at the Depot clutching a stack of brochures containing the new schedules for the Greensboro Transit Authority’s 14 bus routes.

Several minutes later, flush with expectancy, he stepped out into the cold morning and strolled over to the slip for the West Market Street bus. A disgruntled crowd was gathering.

“The number-nine bus leaves at six,” a woman wearing a toboggan and wire rimmed glasses named Leslie Murphy told Crawford. “They brought us here late.”

Crawford informed her that this was the first day of the city bus system’s new 30-minute service, and that another bus would be coming through in half an hour.

“It doesn’t help you if you have to be at work at six-thirty,” said Murphy, whose shift at the Chick-fil-A restaurant on Guilford College Road would start at 6:25.

A transit buff who sits on the Greensboro Transit Authority’s rider advisory board, Crawford maintains a blog called, “HEAT: Journeys and Connections.” Its purpose is to develop awareness among students of the authority’s free express service linking six Greensboro-are college campuses. And with today being the inaugural date for 30-minute service, the system’s latest enhancement, Crawford wouldn’t be anyplace else. His anticipation was such that he had been thinking up new promotional slogans for the authority, such as “Bus’ A Move.”

With the West Market Street bus thrown out of joint, Crawford chose the Martin Luther King Jr. Drive route instead.

“Actually, I’m riding it around to learn the schedule,” he said. “Plus I’m killing time anyway because I don’t have to be at work until eight-thirty.”

The No. 13 bus, which follows Martin Luther King Drive out to Willow Road with a stop at the Guilford Health Care Center, was parked in the slip as driver Bryan Smith discussed a problem operating the wheelchair lift with a supervisor. When the bus left the station only three riders were aboard, including Crawford and a reporter.

Crawford craned his head forward.

“Bryan, curious minds would like to know,” he said. “Why were the buses running late this morning?”

“I don’t know,” replied Smith, a genial, bearded man from Eden who moonlights as a musician. “There was a pile-up earlier this morning. I really couldn’t tell you.”

This particular bus was one of 10 new vehicles the authority has purchased to accommodate the new schedule. In addition to the inoperable wheelchair lift there were a few other kinks to work out. As the No. 13 approached Interstate 40 the riders determined the pull cords were not chiming although Smith noted that the “stop request” light on the dashboard was fully functional.

Smith suggested he was taking the low turnout in stride.

“Remember the Field of Dreams movie?” he said. “If you build it people will come…. I do expect it to be quiet today. A lot of people are still coming back from holiday.”

Crawford was already thinking about the next adjustment to improve the service. He told Smith he had used another transit system equipped with fare machines on the buses, which printed a credit receipt for riders who overpaid. Smith replied that these fare machines were capable of the same, but were not currently programmed to print the receipt.

“I’ll be sure to bring that up at the next rider advisory meeting,” Crawford said.

“Probably be a good idea,” Smith replied.

By 7:15 the No. 13 was back at the Depot. Crawford shook hands with Smith and hopped off the bus. There was still time for one more ride before work.

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